Jungle Trek, Chiang Mai
Fondest memory: Here are the kids of the first village we visited. Well, these kids are spoiled, with too many tourists visits. The first thing they speak to me was Au-Bu-U-Ja, which means hello, good morning, good bye, how are you. All in one word. Immediately after that, they asked me for candies. If you want to give them candies, prepare a whole pack, if you try to give them bit by bit, like me, don't work. They'll attack you! Attack your pocket, attack your hands... until they make sure there's no more candies left with me!
After lunch, we head over for a 3-hour bamboo rafting down the river. This is very fun, although 3 hours is bit long, I think. Started to get bored and tired after 2 hours. My shoulders are all sore the next morning.
I love this rafting because this is a standing one, and everyone have to get involve with rafting, instead of just sitting down there enjoying the scnery like a tourist.
Fondest memory: Our guide from Libra Guesthouse, Pom Pom. Besides taking care of our trekking team, he is also responsible for all our meals. Here he is cooking our lunch, today menu is instant noodle soup with vegetables. Actually, I think it will be more fun if we can involve in the cooking as well, insetad of sitting down waiting to be served like a guest.
Fondest memory: Third day morning, elephants came to village to pick us up. Two of us share an elephant. Here we started our 2 hours Jungle Elephant Ride. At first I was a little scared, and didn't want to step on the animal's head, but I have no choice. In fact, I don't understand why they worship elephants in wat, set them as "saint" figures, while these people treat them like dirt in real life.
Fondest memory: OK. Here is the set performance, the kids are supposed to sing and dance around the camp fire after dinner. Well, at first I thought this is their normal practice after dinner, but in fact, this is a forced performance set by the tour organized. Can see the kids not really willing to perform, just try to finish the assignment. They are more interested in our candies and playing with our digital cameras.
Fondest memory: This is another Jungle Kid, the Little-Pinky-No-Pants. He is good at asking for candies, playing with baby puppy, riding a dog while twisting its ears like riding a motorbike, and playing with knife. He chop his fingers, without crying, laughing instead! I was woundering why these kids don't cry even he cut his fingers. Perhaps their born character is happy? Or perhaps the drug? I don't know...
Fondest memory: Let me introduce the leader of our Jungle Choir, Mr. Chicken! He love to perform on a stage (broken tree trunk). Their show start sharp at 3am till dawn, always on time. The chicken of the whole village will take turn to sing first, then birds thorwn in before dogs and pigs joining towards sunrise. Surround-sound some more!
Well after the guys with guns turned out to be friendly we continued up the hill with just half of the group as the other half were really struggling. We came to a fork in the trail and we were hiking with the 2nd guide and we asked him which way? hmm 50/50 chance and guess what he was wrong! At the time we didn't know it but we were on the wrong path! We had hiked for about 45 minutes then sat down to wait for the rest of the group. As Night time approached we didn't think the other group was going to come this way and we hadn't seen a village for a while so we decided to continue on the path hoping to stumble across another village and just as we couln't see anymore due to darkness we did find a village! Our junior guide didn't speak the local dialect very well but he could speak enough to let the people in the village know that we needed/wanted to eat and have some place to lay down and sleep.
Fondest memory: This picture is taken right before sunset on that night! If you go on a trek make sure someone has a flashlight!!
After our junior guide finished talking with the locals they took us to a big hut to eat. As we entered the hut there were already a bunch of locals seated at the table and someone said something and they all got up and left! Hmmm then they motioned for us to sit down. I felt kind of funny about the situation as I don't like people to move out of the way for me! But we all sat down and I was kind of waiting for them to take the plates and bowls away. But they didn't! They brought more rice and some vegetables and a more water rice soup and but on the same plates that the people were just using. A couple of us in the group looked each other in the eye...LOL Hmm.. Ok I was pretty hungry so I ate up my portions. We all ate without complaining.
After eating we were taken to another hut that had bamboo slat beds which was better than sleeping on mud floor as we were fairly high in elevation and it was quite cold!
We wondered where the rest of the group had gone ...Did they take the wrong trail? Of course not we did. How will be able to find them again? It didn't really matter to me as long as they were safe. I was having a blast! After a good night sleep we woke up to a beautiful sunrise. And had some rice on "clean" plates for breakfast and as we were getting ready to start out on the trail or #1 guide came running over the hill. They had stayed in a different village the night before and as we were'nt there he figured that we would be at this village. It was only about 45 minutes away. The village we stayed in actually had some sort of road going to it and there were 2 pickup trucks in the village. I made us feel to close to civilization. hahaa
After we met up with the rest of the group we continued our hike through the hills. But this part of the trek was done on a dirt road instead of a path. We hiked for a couple hours and then we came out of the forest right near a paved road and the Sawngtao was waiting for us. So I guess our guide had the timing down for what time we would be arriving at that spot? Actually the driver was sleeping in the truck. We loaded up our stuff and drove the 2 hours back to Chiang Mai. It was kind of sad to have to stop the trek. But like all good things I guess it had to come to and end and become a Great Memory. I had thought about doing another trek but I didn't and actually I've never even been back to the area. One of these years when I'm in Thailand I would like to do it again.
For the most part I enjoyed the trek and it showed me how people can lead a life of subsistance without electricity and all working as a village. I'm sure by now that the places I visited would have gift shops and Coca Cola for sale. You know your off the beaten path when you arrive somewhere and they don't have Coca Cola!!
Fondest memory: One of my cool memories of the whole trek is the kids!! I just love the kids. Really curious and always smiling! Sometimes shy..but just happy to be kids!
Favorite thing: As we passed pools of crystal clear water and more crystal clear pools of water our guide said ok..Do you guys want to go for a swim? It took about 4 seconds for all of us to take our clothes off and jump in the water! There could have been a herd of wild crocodiles in the water and we probably would've still jumped in as we were dying of heat exhaustion. After 10 minutes or so we were ready to go again. I filled up my water bottle with the delicous iodized water and we were on our way. I was wishing that I would have packed a few more chocolate bars! I needed the kind that didn't melt in my 120 degree packpack as they were almost liquid as I ate/drank them. My candy bars were all gone on the first day.
Favorite thing: After we hiked past the summit of the mountain we passed these little water falls which is basically the start of the stream that provided the cool crystal clear water that we had gone swimming in further down. In the rainy season this are must be raging with huge amounts of water flowing down the mountain.
Favorite thing: Well it wasn't real jungle just really thick forest! But it was exciting for me as this was the first time that I had experienced lush, big leafy plants with the possiblity of snakes jumping out of the undergrowth at anytime! And believe me I was keeping a keen eye for those serpents! Although on the whole 5 days I never saw one.
As we came around the side of a hill I could see smoke rising from the trees so I new or thought there would be a village soon. And after another 15 minutes there it was! Civilization! Not really but there were a bunch of houses and some animals. It appeared that the people cultivated rice and opium by the looks of the fields.
Upon our arriving and giving greetings to some of them and and they greeted us and our guide spoke with them for awhile. He appeared to be negotiating for us to stay in one of the mud floored shacks and to get us something to eat. He must have negotiated for the low end package deal as we got packed mud floors to sleep on with rice bags for blankets. That night was one of the most uncomfortable nights of sleeping that I had ever had before or since! I'll never forget it.
The people were very curious of us and as we were told which shack we would be sleeping in we hauled our stuff into it. Not only was it a mud packed floor but the walls and ceiling were covered in soot! The don't use chimneys for venting the smoke. They just let the smoke pour out through holes in the ceiling and around the edges of the walls.
The locals were ver curious about us. If we opened up our backpacks we would have 20 curious eyes peeping inside hoping to get a glimpse of something I guess. And as we all got put into the same shack most of the kids were just hanging around watching our every move which was ok with me. To bad we couldn't have spoken some their dialect it would have made it really nice. And they didn't speak English so we used our guid as the go between. We would ask him to ask the locals the questions then he would translate them back.
Well now I'll tell you about the coldest most uncomfortable night that I've ever head. Probably only because I wasn't suspecting it.
We were given a rice sack for a blanket and to lay on packed mud at the altitude we were at was just freezing cold. It must've been in the low 50's F. We were all shivering all night but tired so sometime around 3 in the morning I finally fell asleep thinking that I would never wake up alive!